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Northamptonshire Notes & Queries Vol.II Edited by Christopher Markham F.S.A.

Northampton Infirmary

Northampton Infirmary, as depicted in 1795
Northampton Infirmary 1795

Mr. John Rushworth, a surgeon, residing in Northampton, in a pamphlet published in 1731 and addressed to the Surgeons' Company, described the usage, first discovered by himself, of Peruvian bark in mortification; and in a postscript he urged the desirability of Parliament assisting in the erection of an Infirmary in the centre of every County.

At this time there were no local infirmaries in England, and nothing was done to carry out Mr. Rushworth's suggestions for many years. But when Dr. Stonehouse came to the town in April 1743, he made a strong effort to establish an infirmary. By the 1st July he had printed and circulated papers advocating this proposal, and these were advertised in the Northampton Mercury for 18th July, 1743.

Ultimately it was arranged that the subject should be brought before the Grand Jury at the Summer Assizes, which were held at Northampton on the 21st July 1743.

On the 20th September the same year "a general and very Great Meeting of the Nobility, Gentry and Clergy" was held at the Red Lyon Inn, then an important house situated at the South-west corner of Sheep Street. At this meeting, the Infirmary or Hospital was established, and the Governors took a house in George Row upon a lease, at a rent of £30 a year, with the option of purchasing the same.

The fourteenth century west window in the Infirmary
west window
At a meeting of the Subscribers to the Hospital, held on Thursday. 17th November, 1743, the Statutes, Rules and Orders for the government of the same were reported by the Earl of Halifax, the Chairman of the Committee, and were confirmed and ordered to be printed.

The house for the hospital having been obtained and fitted up, the Committee met there for the first time on 10th December 1743.

This house adjoined and was on the west side of the County Gaol.

In the west end of the gable of this building is a beautiful pointed window, in the late Decorated style, of about 1350. This window is of two lights, the height being 5 feet 11 inches, and the width 2 feet 10 inches:

Officers of the Hospital

The first officers of the Hospital were-:

  • The Most Noble, John Duke of Montagu, Grand Visitor
  • The Right Honble, James, Earl of Northampton, Perpetual President.
  • James Jekyll, Esquire, of Dallington Hall, Treasurer.
  • Dr. Charles Kimberly, Physician Extraordinary.
  • Dr. Samuel Mayne and Dr. James Stonehouse, Physicians in Ordinary.
  • Mr. Edward Litchfield and Mr. Charles Lyon, Surgeons.
  • Mr. Henry Woolly, Secretary.

    It seems that Dr. Freeman was also appointed a physician extraordinary, but died before the Hospital opened, and therefore his name does not appear on this list.

Opening of the Infirmary 1744

When the County Infirmary opened on Thursday, the 29th March 1744, for the reception of patients, the Rev. Richard Grey, D.D. Rector of Hinton-in-the-Hedges, preached a sermon in All Saints' Church.
The Governors, with the Earl of Northampton and the Earl of Halifax, attended by the Mayor and Corporation, went in procession to All Saints', and at the collection made at the doors of the church the sum of £54 16s 11¾d. was contributed.
After the service the Governors adjourned to the Peacock Hotel, where a luncheon was served at one o'clock. The same day nine in-patients and one out-patient were admitted to the house.

A description of a painting of the interior of one of the wards.

A scene from the interior of Northampton Infirmary
Interior of the Infirmary founded by Dr Doddridge and Others
in George Row, Northampton

Four beds on each side draped with heavy hangings, which would not at all conform to modern ideas. The Physician, wearing the dress of the period, with periwig and three-cornered hat, his gold-headed cane suspended from his left wrist, and a sword by his side. The surgeons are in attendance. One is bleeding a patient and the other bandaging a leg: there is a clerical looking individual, who may be one of the incumbents in the town.

An appeal was made to the medical men in the town for assistance in carrying on the work of the charity, and these gentlemen, while professing to be ready to help, were all very jealous of one another, and many complaints were made, especially against Dr. Stonehouse and Mr. Lyon.

The hospital was estimated to accommodate eighty patients, but, as a matter of act, when it was opened there were only thirty beds, though ten were added the next year.

Patients' Diets

When the house was opened there were four diets prescribed for the patients, namely full diet, low diet, milk diet, and dry diet.

Full diet.
On Sunday and Thursday, for breakfast a pint of boiled mutton broth or panado; for dinner eight ounces of mutton or veal; and for supper a pint of veal broth or panado. On Monday and Friday, for breakfast a pint of millet or rice gruel; for dinner twelve ounces of baked pudding; and for supper two ounces of cheese or butter. On Tuesday for breakfast a pint of panado or milk pottage; for dinner a pint of barley broth with two ounces of meat; and for supper a pint of sago. On Wednesday and Saturday, for breakfast a pint of burgout; for dinner eight ounces of boiled beef or mutton; and for supper two ounces of cheese or butter. And it was ordered the "The Patient shall have Bread and Beer suuicient without Waste."

Low diet.
For breakfast a pint of water gruel, or panado, or burgout; for dinner two ounces of oiled mutton with a pint of broth, or eight ounces of baked pudding, or a pint of barley broth without meat, or eight ounces of boiled bread pudding; and for supper a pint of water gruel. Or milk pottage, or millet, or rice gruel, or two ounces of cheese or butter. Together with "Bread sufficient without waste" And "Small Beer, but a Pint a day N.B. - Patients on Low Diet are to be served first."

Milk diet.
For breakfast a pint of milk pottage, or rice milk; for dinner a pint of hasty pudding, or a pint of furmety with four ounces of boiled bread pudding, or a pint of white-pot with bread baked in it; and for supper a pint of rice milk, or a pint of boiled milk, or a pint of milk pottage, or a pint of burgout. And "Bread sufficient without waste. Drink, three Pints a Day, one Part thereof to be Milk, and two Water."

Dry diet.
For breakfast two ounces of bread or cheese; for dinner half a pound of roast veal, or eight ounces of plain rice pudding thoroughly baked, or half a pound of roast mutton; and for supper again two ounces of butter or cheese. Together with "Bread or Sea-Biscuit without Waste." No mention is made of any liquids with this diet.

Some of the foods in this list are now uncommon and require a word or two of explanation.

Panado was a bread caudle, to which currants, sugar and sometimes other things were added; receipts for making are given in "A True Gentlewoman's Delight," 1676, and in "The Accomplished Ladies' Rich Closet," 1706.

Millet was no doubt a porridge made from millet meal.

White pot was a dish made of cream, sugar, rice, currants, cinnamon and other spices.

Burgout, or burgoo as Miss Baker gives it, was a cheap oat-meal porridge, often used by seamen.

Hospital Report 1744

The first Report of the Hospital was issued in October, 1744. This document gives account of the founding of the institution, and continues:- "A large house was immediately "taken in Northampton, the situation of which for air, as well as all sorts of requisites for an hospital, is preferable to almost any in England." It also gives the following state of the patients:-

In-patients admitted from 29th March to the 1st September 1744:

Discharged cured
For Misbehaviour
Made out patients
Remaining in the Hospital

Out patients:

Discharged Cured
For non attendance
Made in patient
Remaining on Book

Indentures of Lease & Release

In 1748 the house, which was already occupied, was conveyed by Indentures of Lease and Release " In consideration of the sum of seven hundred and fifty pounds. "A messuage with the yards gardens and other appurtenances situate in the Parish of All Saints in the Town of Northampton formerly an Inn," in trust to permit the same to be made use of as an Hospital or Infirmary. It does not however appear what sign this old inn bore.


The apothecaries were elected in a very curious manner. When there was a vacancy an advertisement for such an officer was inserted in the local paper, and altered week by week as some fresh idea occurred to the Committee. The applications were dealt with as they came, till a candidate appeared who was satisfactory to the physicians, and then, when the arrangements had been duly completed between the candidate and the committee, the appointment was made. One of the advertisements, in June, 1761, ran thus:-

"If any surgeon or apothecary who is an unmarried man between 30 and 40 years old or upwards be disposed to retire from business and end his days in an easy and comfortable manner as house surgeon and apothecary to the Infirmary confining himself wholly to that business he is desired to signify his intentions to Mr Woolley." Later in the advertisement it proceeds, "The wards and his days may be liable to exception, it is therefore thought proper to observe that if a person be inclined to agree with the Governors for a number of years only it will be sufficient."

This valuable method of ending his days was to be rendered comfortable by the handsome salary of £40 per annum, and possibly and addition of £40 as a gratuity.

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